tatiana de la tierra
I was eighteen years old when I decided to lose my virginity. I selected my partner, not out of love or even lust, but out of convenience. It was time for me to be sexual, to be a woman, to know myself in this way. He was a middle class white man who lived in a cottage all his own behind his mother’s house in the South Florida countryside. A twenty-year-old intellectual who smoked Camels and drank whiskey, who played poker and dug The Hobbit. I drove through fields of tomatoes and squash, and groves of mangos and avocados on the way to his house. I spent many nights in his bed, conducting experiments with my body, while mangos ripened all around us.
I had sex with a lot of men. Some of it was anonymous–I liked to pick them up at the beach, at the park, in natural surroundings–since I was a natural type of girl then. Some of it was friendly–they were guys I knew from No Nuke rallies, organic gardening class, and solar energy workshops. Some of it was musical–I thought jazz was the coolest, and fucking a sax player, now that was the ultimate. Mostly, I didn’t care much about them. Though I did have a boyfriend in college and I thought he was some sort of Adonis and got lost in his eyes.
I’m pretty sure I enjoyed sex with men, but I can’t remember. Mostly, I remember the silence. Maybe they didn’t give me words to feed off of, maybe I had a cork in my throat, or maybe there were sounds that have gotten lost in my memory. But sex in my twenties, with men, and later, with women, has no soundtrack.
Always, I have been fat. Or I thought I was, or was told that I was. But I have photographs where I can see, now, that there were times that I wasn’t as fat as I thought. It doesn’t matter, anyway, because, mostly, I have been fat; my weight has fluctuated from about 170 to 250 pounds. Not very sexy, by white society standards. Or by Latin standards–I grew up being reminded of my gordura by Colombian strangers and relatives, every single day, it seemed. It was different with black culture, though, where my fatness was appreciated. I had several significant relationships with black men and women; I think that their ease with my size allowed me to relax into myself. It permitted sensual celebrations.
Always, I have been sexual. I must have no shame at all, to be fat and fucking. I do, though. I did my fair share of reading Cosmopolitan and Vanidades. I could never be a woman like in Vogue–slim, voluptuous, symmetrical, chic. Wearing bikinis, skin-tight dresses, mini-faldas, and high heels. Smelling like a sun rise in Paris and midnight in Madrid. Saying the right thing all the time, laughing in proper measure, strutting like a high-class whore. This was a real woman. Stretch marks, uneven tits, scars, tacky attire–this was me. And fat, para rematar.
Does womanhood boil down to a list of ingredients? Or is it about how you use what you got? And how come, despite my imperfections and shortcomings in being a “real” woman, I have felt sexy and powerful in my sexuality? Why didn’t I censor my cunt and bound my tits and bury my head in the sexual sand? What, really, is a real woman? Am I one?
I think that I am a lesbian. Well, technically, I am. I have been sexual exclusively with women for the past seventeen years. I remember the joy of being a baby dyke. I just wanted to eat pussy all the time. I had sex with a lot of women, and a bunch of mini-relationships. I fell in love almost instantly. But love didn’t last for long with me. Still, I couldn’t not care about women. I trusted them. I wanted to go deep with them. I wanted to go deep with myself. With men, it seems that I was playing around with my body. With women, I was playing around with my body and sentiment and soul. When I fucked a woman, I was fucking all the women in the world in one moment. With women, I allowed myself to be revealed. I was at home.
But with women I was a lesbian, not a woman. My lesbian training ground took place among white lesbian separatists who were vegetarians, feminists, and witches. The Birkenstock-flannel-shirt-granola types. I emphasize this cultural aspect because I am Colombian, an immigrant in this country, and I had not found a way to come out while in Miami, living with mi familia. I enjoyed being a hippie girl, so much of the lesbian dogma was comfortable to me; the problem was that it seemed that there were only certain things that I was allowed to be, and many that I wasn’t, in order to be a dyke.
I had to physically separate myself from my family and Latin culture in order to become a lesbian. But I also had to separate myself from my womanhood in order to become a lesbian. It was the eighties; being a lipstick lesbian was not an option. I went to Colombia once, after having come out, and returned to the States as a woman–new hairdo, manicured nails, eyeliner. All my life, I have come back more feminine after being in Colombia, where wearing a skirt is just a natural thing and I am culturally expected to look and act like a female, however artificial and stereotyped that might be. Upon my return from one of my Colombian trips, I visited some white lesbian separatist friends who took a look at me in a skirt and make up and closed the door on me. They gave me a flannel shirt for Christmas. It’s no wonder that I always hated white women, as much as I loved and even fucked them. We never did speak the same language.
Everything changed for me with Margarita. We met through a Latina lesbian group in Miami. She was a handsome stone butch top from Cuba, a perfect gentleman who opened doors for me and took me out on real dates and scared the fuck out of me. She made me nervous. I would forget what I was going to say, drop things, blush. She fucked me with all the time in the world, talked to me like no one ever had. Ven acá mamita rica. . .
This is where my soundtrack begins. I make these little sounds that I wasn’t even conscious of for many years–animal sounds. Whimpering, desperate Fuck-Me sounds. I-like-it-like-that sounds. I-don’t-think-so sounds. Sí-sí-sí sounds. Margarita got to know my sounds so well that she could deejay them herself. She incorporated words with sex. Que maricona más rica. Asked questions that demanded a response. ¿A quién le pertenece esta papaya? Gave precise orders at key moments. Pídame la leche, cabrona.
I am a writer, literary by nature, in love with the written word. But Margarita brought real words to life for me–words that carried their full weight in a sexual second. Along the way I came to know what maybe I always should have known–that I was a mujer, a woman not like those in magazines, but a real woman–one with sounds and open-legged hunger, one with rhythm and musical climaxes, one with red-painted nails and natural perfume and secrets to be discovered.
Inside, I have always been very girlie and feminine, more so than outer appearances could ever reveal. I think that I am a girl more than anything else–more than woman, lesbiana, or dyke. And not just a girl, but a little girl. A cotton candy and ruffled underwear girl. A flat-chested girl with tiny hands and big curls. An innocent little girl, one who was never sexually molested, one who does not know shame, one who does not know bondage and discipline and sadomasochism. A little girl who will taste anything you put in her mouth. A little girl who is a woman who cries as she becomes smaller and smaller. A little girl who becomes a big puta. A little girl who sings in bed, who fucks to the beat of salsa. A little girl who chews bubble gum and blows kisses. A little girl who falls into a sweet slumber after a long night of playing.
A little girl who is a real woman.
It is the year 2000 and I am thirty-eight-years old, living in the Northeast. I have a brand new scar on the right side of my stomach–a nine-inch long plum-colored curved line in the shape of a crescent moon. Beaten down by stomach and back pain in the emergency room, I couldn’t fathom that there was a physical reason for my state. I am being punished, I thought. I had done something terrible, and I knew what it was–a sexual act or two. Yet the surgeon did find a physical cause–a diseased gallbladder–and performed an operation to rid me of it. How medieval of me, I later thought, to have post colonial Catholic guilt about sexuality. And how powerful, the lingering effect of sexual transgressions.
The healing of my new tattoo was not pretty; it was painful and I felt, for a few moments, at least, hopeless and sex-less and woman-less. I came home from the hospital and looked at myself naked in the mirror, in awe of the grotesque bruises, the bloody bandages, the swollen belly. As soon as I had a moment to myself, I plugged my vibrator in, by the bed, and got on my back. It didn’t matter that the entire right side of my body hurt, that my wound was nine inches long and seven inches deep, that contracting my stomach muscles was like being stabbed in the gut with broken bottles. No. What mattered was that it was still there after all, the magic between my legs; I just had to check to make sure.
My long-distance lover came to visit me after the surgery. She couldn’t wait to see the scar, and was even disappointed that it wasn’t as ghastly as she had imagined it. The skin surrounding the scar is completely numb. My belly button, which was sliced and stitched up during the operation, still hurts a little. My lover brought me white daisies and red pomegranates and took me out on a date. After dinner and a movie and dancing to salsa at La Luna, this town’s only Latin nightclub, we came home and fucked. I forgot all about my wound then. I was just a woman being sexual in the world, a love machine, a sinvergüenza. A sí-sí-sí girl.
A real woman in full color and surround sound.
11 de enero de 2000, buffalo, nueva york
de la tierra, tatiana. “Real Women.” Porcupine Love and Other Tales from My Papaya. Chapbook. Buffalo: Chibcha Press, 2003. 9-14.